When Nixon offered him the job, Simon would later recall, the president himself used the term energy czar and discomfitingly likened the role to that of Hitler's minister of armaments, Albert Speer. Subsequent presidents, however, have shied away from the C-word and its domineering, anti-democratic connotations. Most recently, President Bush has been careful not to call Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute his "war czar," even though he's universally labeled that in the press. It's sure a lot easier than saying his official title: assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now we hear that the Obama team doesn't like czar either. No wonder: Even now, the word evokes either old-fashioned despotism or latter-day caricatures of tin-pot tyrants. But it's safe to say it's not going anywhere, as long as that compact word keeps doing its job, glibly condensing bureaucratic mouthfuls.